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Irish PM says Northern Ireland-to-Scotland bridge should be taken seriously


The Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar has said Boris Johnson’s idea of building a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland should be taken seriously, newspaper reports suggest

In an interview with The Sunday Times, the taoiseach said that the Chinese had shown what was possible by building 100km-long bridges and that Johnson’s plan should not be dismissed.

‘Prime minister Johnson is genuinely interested in taking a serious look at this idea of building a bridge between Antrim and Scotland,’ Varadkar told the paper. ’I know people dismiss it, but I don’t. It needs to be looked at; it needs to be at least examined.’

In September it was widely reported that Johnson had asked for a feasibility report into the plan with the Treasury and the Department for Transport asked to examine the costs and risks of a possible link. 

The idea of a crossing between the countries was revived by architect Alan Dunlop last year. Dunlop, the principal of Alan Dunlop Architects, reckons the price tag for a 12-mile crossing from Mull of Kintyre to Torr Head would be about £15 billion. But he argues that a 26-mile bridge between Portpatrick and Bangor or Larne could have more benefits, though it would also cost more.

The world’s longest bridge is the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge, a 165km-long (102-mile) viaduct on the Beijing-to-Shanghai high-speed railway, although it is not over water.

Varadkar told The Sunday Times: ‘I’ve seen what the Chinese have got … 100km-long bridges. I don’t know if it is viable but I also don’t think it should be dismissed out of hand, and I know he is particularly excited about that one.’

The Taoiseach stopped short of offering cash for a planned link to Scotland. But he suggested his government would be willing to help fund a high-speed train link between Dublin and Belfast.

The notion of building across the Irish Sea is not new, but concept proposals – including or a huge tunnel, which was put forward during the First World War – have never progressed, partly because of fears of unexpected ordnance in the Irish Sea.

Dunlop resurrected the idea of a Celtic Crossing in early 2018 in response to reports that Johnson wanted a bridge from England to France.

The architect told the AJ: ‘I’ve been studying the challenges of building a bridge between Scotland and Ireland since the story first broke over 20 months ago.

‘I firmly believe it is possible to create both a road and rail link to connect the UK with Ireland. There are precedents we can draw on in Europe and globally: projects for sea bridges that span much longer distances and are designed to withstand typhoons and cover deeper trenches than those in the North Irish Sea.

‘This is possible,’ he added. ’And the fact that the government has called for a feasibility study into the costs and risks is a very welcome move forward.’ 


Readers' comments (13)

  • Re. a rail link, many years ago I went (very slowly but non-stop) through the gauge-changer at the Port Bou border station on the Talgo route from Barcelona to Montpellier, and was intrigued by the close watch being kept on proceedings by large men with big sledge-hammers.
    Technology might well have improved since then, but it's worth noting that Spain has been busy building standard gauge lines (admittedly primarily to create high speed routes, but also to ease cross-border traffic - including freight).
    Perhaps intrepid readers with recent experience of the Poland - Russia and Mongolia - China border crossings can advise whether they still involve lifting trains bodily off their wheels to change them?

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  • China is in the process of developing track changing trains, Robert to handle variable gauges. Coping with cross border variable rail gauges would be the least challenging aspect of this whole endeavour, I believe.

    I did an extensive interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation last week. It's now published here: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-26/boris-johnson-is-building-bridges-between-a-fracturing-uk/11630656

    If interested, there are also good links.

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  • I have to say Alan, that I don't think the Chinese are necessarily a good role model, in political or technological matters particularly. I really don't think that technical innovation is their strong suit. They seem to have more of a penchant for reverse engineering advanced technology from other nations. I think that they have also had some building collapses recently, but then again, so have we!

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